LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to "dismiss this vexatious" lawsuit claiming he incited a riot during a campaign speech in Louisville last year, arguing the president clearly did nothing wrong and a lower court erred in allowing it to continue.
In May, U.S. District Judge David Hale of the Western District of Kentucky declined to dismiss the lawsuit, rejecting Trump's 1st Amendment free speech defense.
Since then, attorneys for three people who claim in the lawsuit they were assaulted at the rally last year, have repeatedly asked to depose Trump, as well as obtain the president's "tax returns" and the names "of all medical providers from whom Trump has sought or received any psychological" treatment, according to court records.
In a filing Monday, Trump's attorneys asked the appeals court to overturn Hale's "clearly erroneous ruling" and dismiss the case, arguing the lawsuit is "political sabotage" that is "punishing and chilling protected speech" while attempting to embarrass the president.
"Unless this Court intervenes now, they will succeed in using this meritless claims to hamstring the sitting President and his administration by embroiling the highest ranking Executive Branch officials in a contentious and distracting discovery fight."
In May, Hale ruled that Trump ordering the removal of a black woman was "particularly reckless," given violence at past Trump events and that known hate group members were in the Louisville crowd.
Hale found enough evidence that the protesters' injuries were a "direct and proximate result" of Trump's actions to allow the lawsuit to continue.
"It is plausible that Trump's direction to 'get 'em out of here' advocated the use of force," Hale ruled. "Unlike the statements at issue in the cases cited by the Trump Defendants, 'get 'em out of here' is stated in the imperative; it was an order, an instruction, a command."
But Trump's attorneys argue in Monday's motion that he was not "inciting a riot," but rather exercising a core constitutional right when he reacted to the disruptive protesters by saying, "Get ’em out of here," before also adding, "Don’t hurt 'em."
Trump's call for the removal is fully protected "unless he advocated a greater degree of force than necessary to remove them," his attorneys claim.
The attorneys cited a 1996 6th Circuit ruling that a George H.W. Bush campaign rally had a First Amendment right to exclude protesters who sought to express pro-Clinton campaign messages, according to the motion.
The appeals court, according to Trump’s attorneys, ruled then that "requir[ing] the committee to admit all ticket-holding members of the public seeking to express a message would … 'violate the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.'"
A protester at the Louisville Trump rally carried a sign depicting Trump's face on the body of a pig.
Trump did "what any other political candidate would have done in the same situation -- calling for the protesters to be removed, without even a hint of any advocacy of violence," his attorneys argue. "…Any contrary rule would destroy the practical ability of political campaigns to express their own messages at campaign rallies without being sabotaged by hostile protesters."
Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah and Henry Brousseau, claim they were peacefully protesting at the Kentucky International Convention Center when Trump ordered supporters to throw them out.
Matthew Heimbach, a leader with the white supremacist Traditionalist Youth Network, pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Heimbach was fined $145 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was conditionally discharged for two years. He was ordered to have no contact with the protester, Nwanguma.
In addition, Heimbach must get anger management treatment in Tennessee.
Criminal summonses were also issued for Alvin Bamberger, a 75-year-old Ohio resident who was wearing a uniform associated with the Korean War Veterans Association; and Indiana resident Joseph Pryor.
Pryor pleaded guilty to harassment with physical contact of Nwanguma on June 23. He paid $245 in fines and court costs, according to court records.
Bamberger has not yet been served with his criminal summons.
Nwanguma, a University of Louisville student, was seen being pushed and shoved out of the audience in a video that went viral.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Dan Canon and Greg Belzley, have argued that Trump has plenty of time for a deposition, arguing his "presidency is, shall we say, qualitatively different from most modern presidencies in terms of the 'undivided time and attention' paid by the President to his 'public duties.'"
"As of this writing, Trump has played golf 20 times since his inauguration," according to Canon and Belzley's May motion. "He has the time for a deposition."
Canon, a Democrat, recently announced he is running for the 9th District Congressional seat in Indiana now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Hollinsgworth.
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